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Published: Friday, 6/13/2003

Steam plant parking gets official nod

The Toledo Plan Commission yesterday approved outdoor parking for Water Street Station in the former steam plant downtown.

The approval came after the plan commission balked at a more extensive outdoor parking lot on the side of the building facing the Maumee River - and after plan commission members questioned the loss of public access to the building, which will be converted into luxury apartments.

“It's basically a private building. We've done away with all the public uses,” said Rey Boezi, a member of the commission.

He said the public uses have disappeared because plans for a large addition on the river side of the steam plant had been scrapped.

“The building looks better than before, but its uses have shrunk,” Mr. Boezi said.

Under the plans approved yesterday, there will be one level of inside parking with 46 spaces and a lot with 30 spaces outside, guaranteeing each tenant one space. In addition, there are 27 spaces on Water Street that are expected to be leased for use by the tenants and visitors.

Construction should begin within two months, Sean Rooney, project coordinator for Somerville Development, Inc., said yesterday.

Mr. Rooney and Michael Wellman, an architect with Sandvick Architects of Cleveland, began yesterday's monthly meeting of the plan commission asking for approval of a new 44-space parking lot on the river side of the steam plant.

Commission member Bernard “Pete” Culp objected to the large parking area, and recalled that fully interior parking was part of why Somerville-Sandvick won approval from city council for the Water Street Station project last year.

“When the [request for proposals] was let out, what set you apart from the other competitors, you've now eliminated,” Mr. Culp said. Plans originally had called for two levels of interior parking, a restaurant, fitness club, and retail arcade.

Ted Jones, the city's acting manager of neighborhoods, acknowledged that the project has changed but defended the changes.

“To make the project work, one floor of parking was eliminated to fit more units in,” he said. He said the competing projects had no internal parking, and Somerville-Sandvick had the best record of successfully redeveloping historic buildings.

Last year, the development company eliminated a proposed addition that would have nearly doubled the size of the steam plant. The redesign did away with any plans for a fitness club, restaurant, or retail outlet.

Scaling back the project also eliminated the developers' need to borrow $800,000 from the city. The city acquired the old plant on Water Street in 1997. It has been out of use since 1985.

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